“Are You Mad Enough?”
I was saddened, disgusted, disturbed, but not surprised at the recent church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. The killing of innocent Black people is back en vogue. The slaughter of American citizens with darker hues of skin seems to be all the rage again.
While it may seem that I have arrived at a fatalistic viewpoint, this is far from the truth. Neither am I naive enough to be optimistic and think that things will just get better with time. Both fatalism and optimism lead to a “hands off” approach. I believe how we feel about these tragedies does not matter as much as what we are going to do in response.
While I am not surprised by these racially charged acts of domestic terrorism, I am surprised at the lack of response by the church, particularly when we espouse Jesus as our example. Howard Thurman remarked on the connection between the impotency of the Christian Church and the lack of our application to the social conditions people live in when he said, “to those who need profound succor and strength to enable them to live in the present with dignity and creativity, Christianity often has been sterile and of little avail.”
The Jesus we serve gave us a different example. It is recorded in Mark 11:15-17, that Jesus went to the Temple and witnessed something that disturbed Him greatly. When He saw the moneychangers and witnessed the sale of the sacrificial animals, He was disgusted. He was not just sad. He was mad. He didn’t suppress His discontent by simply sharing it with his disciples around a Sabbath lunch. Jesus was disturbed enough to do something.
He made a whip and physically overturned tables while evicting both the animals and the moneychangers. What would make Jesus do something so uncharacteristic of the Lamb of God?
This text has been used to talk about everything from irreverence in the sanctuary to the evils of the love of money. However, these issues are not why Jesus acted in such a visceral manner. Jesus overturned the tables because the religious elite was taking advantage of the poor travelers who had come to the city for Passover. Jesus was disgusted at the unjust treatment of the vulnerable and He could not remain unengaged.
Jesus was disgusted at the unjust treatment of the vulnerable and He could not remain unengaged.
Jesus wasn’t just sad; no, He got mad. Mad enough to turn over “the tables of injustice.” I believe indifference is a close relative to inactivity. If we are to be true disciples of Christ, should we not do something about the exploitation of the vulnerable, defenseless, marginalized and disenfranchised? It is not enough for Christians to talk about, post about, tweet about, and sermonize about the evils of racism, and prejudice. It is time for action. I think it is instructive for us that Jesus does not give a sermon or speech to address the issue. He acts first and then explains why He acted. After Jesus cleans the Temple, He explains that His concern is for “all people” and their access to what God has provided for them.
Our reaction to these atrocities usually does not go past our talk. Jesus did not talk. He acted. There are a few ways we can be like Jesus in dealing with injustice.
Jesus acted against the attitude of superiority that had been permeating the culture of the Temple. When Jesus overturned the tables, He was addressing the fact that there was an atmosphere or a “permissive air” that allowed these acts of discrimination and inequality to take place. People do not just wake up and say they want to kill nine Black people in a Church. The environment that they grow up in, got to work in, or hang around in, allows them to think in a prejudiced and bigoted way. This young man who killed these innocent people was raised in dangerous societal maelstrom of hatred. We must overturn and expose the permissive air of racism wherever we are. There is a permissive air on our jobs, in our schools, and even in our own denominations.
If we are to be like Jesus, we all have to expose that permissive air of injustice around us. We cannot allow or laugh at racial jokes. We have to address the fact that many states in the South still have variations of the Confederate flag flying o’er the grounds of their State Capitals. We have to actively engage in challenging the racist cultures of our private schools and denominational offices. We need persistent protest against the racism and inequality in even in our denominational processes and decisions. If we do not challenge this culture, we allow the system to take advantage of more people.
Jesus also acted against a system that exploited poor and marginalized people. He did not just address the words and ideas that these religious elite had towards the poor. His overturning of the tables literally stopped the injustice that was going on. We have to do something to stop the injustice. While we work on the hearts of people, we have to stop the hands of those who are killing and destroying our communities. Our churches need to hold their local leaders and legislators accountable for the laws and policies that govern their communities. National elections must become secondary to local elections so that we can begin to determine who sits on our legal benches, who patrols our streets, and who makes policies for our local schools.
Every church in should have a Social Justice ministry. Does it not make sense that if we have a ministry that fights for people’s religious rights that we should also have a ministry that is dedicated to securing their human and civil rights? If we had a social justice ministry, we could coordinate our efforts to inform and equip our churches to engage our communities for systemic change.
Overturning these “tables of injustice” must involve our congregations getting involved in local politics. Politics is not inherently a negative practice. Dr. Martin Luther King understood that people of faith have to change the laws and policies of this great nation while working on the harder and larger work of changing the hearts of people. We must speak against injustice and we must also do something about injustice. If we want to be like Jesus, and we love the people that Christ died to save, we must overturn the tables so that all people have access to what God has provided.
Are you mad enough to do something? Jesus, our Savior did something. Will you?